Were you encouraged by my message on Mother Culture in the last issue? I hope so. Are you, in any small way, taking part in Mother Culture since its reading? I hope so, too. Most of the articles I have written over the years for PHS have had some "how to" in them. Yet behind every good "how to" is a "why to." Charlotte Mason developed a method of teaching based upon a philosophy. Within her philosophy of education are the underlining principles, the reason things are done the way they are done. When a home teacher does the job of leading and teaching her children out of principles, she is more motivated, confident, and empowered. She is less confused, less worried. Thus I make my apology for the absence of "how to" in this article. If you will read and consider the philosophy, I believe it will have a direct affect on the "how tos" in your home.
Philosophy Behind the Habit of Obedience
Perhaps you've heard about how important the habit of obedience is in children if they are to be teachable. Let's look closer.
There is a "temptation of ease" in the homeschool household when a weary mother is ever so much with her children. That temptation is to be "buddy-buddy" or "palsy-walsy" in too many circumstances. In this case Mother may succumb to the whims, wants and whines of her children as the presence of her authority dwindles or fades away, blending into the background kitchen wallpaper. Yes, one good fruit of homeschooling is the close relationship that builds between mother and child. It is valuable and necessary for a loving, warm, home atmosphere. Rules only, without relationship, invite rebellion. But let's look at the flip side. Relationship only, without rules (to be obeyed, promptly and without complaint) promotes disorder and friction. A child's regular outspoken, soft-spoken or unspoken, "But I don't want to . . ." is a symptom of a household that may be buddy-buddy.
In America we are privileged to live in a democratic society. We are saturated with the democratic way of thinking. Therefore it isn't surprising when the notion of social equality slips into the home, where it doesn't belong. While reading Charlotte Mason's writings I come to see more clearly that a very different form of government is to be established in the home. The government of the family is to be an absolute monarchy. The domestic rulers are precisely as follows: Father is king and Mother is queen. Dear fellow mother, the day your first child was born and placed into your arms was a happy and an important day for you. It was your day of coronation. That's right, Mom, you are the queen who faithfully serves her young subjects while expecting her subjects to faithfully serve her. Charlotte Mason said, "It is good for the children to faithfully serve, honor, and humbly obey their natural rulers. Only at home can children be trained in the chivalrous temper of proud submission and dignified obedience; and if the parents do not inspire and foster deference, reverence, and loyalty, how shall these crowning graces of character thrive in a hard and emulous world?"
In our present American secular society, it seems too many parents have abdicated the throne. Passively they allow others (experts or institutions and peers) to have a stronger influence on their children. In themselves they lack control. But Charlotte believed that it is not an option for parents either to lay aside or to sink under the burden of the honor laid upon them. We parents have been personally appointed by the Almighty King, the sole Ruler of men.
The Important Place of Parents in God's Chain
Charlotte Mason believed that the authority of parents is a link in the chain which holds the universe to God. "None of us has a right to exercise authority, in things great or small, except as we are, and acknowledge ourselves to be, deputed by the one supreme and ultimate Authority."
In this secular humanistic society, men are becoming weary of themselves. Human reason is limited when there is no higher authority. That is why, although a secular parenting magazine may contain contain some good points about child training, beware: their concept of the chain of authority is a weak one. Perhaps it is better to say the chain is too short. It doesn't reach up to heaven. Or, in some instances, there may be no chain at all. Have you seen the bumper sticker that reads: "Question Authority?" Oh, how wonderful it would be if this questioning would lead the lost to our heavenly Authority. Charlotte says, "Nothing less than the Infinite will satisfy the spirit of man. We . . . are made for God, and have no rest until we find Him." We in the Christian homeschooling community seek to restore Authority to its ancient place as an ultimate fact. Just as the principle of gravity is accepted and recognized as a universal fact, so too, in the moral world should the principle of parents being in authority over their children be a fact universally accepted and recognized.
Parents Hold an Office
Charlotte wanted parents to understand that our parental authority is vested in the office and not in the person; that the moment it is treated as a personal attribute it is forfeited. What does she mean by this? She wants us to understand that a person in authority is a person authorized; and that he who is authorized is under authority. The person under authority holds and fulfills a trust. When he asserts himself by governing upon the impulse of his own will, he ceases to be authoritative and authorized. He becomes arbitrary and autocratic. "Autocracy" is a new word for me so I looked it up. The dictionary defines it as independent or self-derived power. Authority, on the other hand, is not so independent. Charlotte gives us an example from Scripture. The centurion in the Gospels says, "I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, 'Go,' and he goeth; to another, 'Come,' and he cometh, and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he doeth it." The centurion is set under authority, or as we say, authorized, and, for that reason, he is able to say to one, "go," and to another, "come," and to a third, "do this," in the calm certainty that all will be done as he says, because he holds his position for this very purpose - to secure that such and such things will be accomplished. He himself is a servant with definite tasks, though they are the tasks of authority. This, too, is the position that our Lord Jesus assumes; He says, "I came not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me." This is His commission and the standing order of His life, and for this reason He spoke as one having authority, knowing Himself to be commissioned and supported. So, too, are parents commissioned and supported by God. They are authorized to be in authority over their children. They are not autocratic as the secular humanist is, or as the bumper sticker suggests. Therefore we seek godly wisdom for teaching our children.
Parents Must Reflect the Majesty of God
And here is a further thought. Charlotte says, "We have not only to fulfill His counsels regarding children, but to represent His Person. We parents are as God to the little child; and yet a more constraining thought, God is to him what his parents are; he has not power to conceive a greater and lovelier personality than that of the royal heads of his home; he makes his first approach to the Infinite through them."
My fellow homeschool mother, let us remember our position, fulfill our office with a kind of friendly dignity. It is an important and sometimes difficult position - "uneasy lies the head that wears a crown," even if it is the natural crown of parenthood. But God will guide our steps if we keep our eyes on He who appointed us. And we will find joy within the authoritative yet loving relationship we were meant to establish with our children.
School Education by Charlotte Mason, chapter one. Parents and Children by Charlotte Mason, chapter two.